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Idaho lawmakers urge Feds to keep air traffic control towers open | Politics

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Idaho lawmakers urge Feds to keep air traffic control towers open

Idaho's Congressional members have sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in an effort to convince him not to close the state's five air traffic control towers that are targeted under sequestration, including the one at the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration announced its intention to close a total of 173 towers on April 7th.

In the letter dated yesterday, Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, and Representatives Raul Labrador and Mike Simpson said they are "dismayed that the cuts to contract towers are disproportionate and inconsistent with the intent of sequestration. The FAA's sequestered funding equals approximately $600 million out of a $15.9 billion FY2012 allocation - or less than 4 percent. Yet the cuts to the contract tower program, and the closure of 173 air traffic towers, represents a roughly 75 percent reduction."

The delegation says they are confident that options do exist "that would lessen the impact on contract towers and allow many of them, if not all of them, to remain open and operating for the foreseeable future." With that in mind, they have requested a delay in the final decision on the closures in Idaho, and elsewhere, until they have a chance to meet with LaHood and Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta.

A second letter signed by several members of Congress was also sent to Huerta yesterday. In it, the lawmakers told him that they "expect a responsible executive in your position to propose rational solutions to minimize the effect of these cuts on the aviation infrastructure and the traveling public. In fact, Congress requested such a plan six months ago. But your department has failed to deliver such plans, an unacceptable failure to respond to modest belt-tightening that so many American families have done over the last four years."

The Congressional members also requested that Huerta provide the following no later than March 29th:

  •  a detailed assessment of the effects the closure of the contract towers would have on the aviation infrastructure's structural integrity
  • a detailed list of other alternatives that were considered to mitigate the sequester's effect on the Contract Tower Program
  • a detailed list of all planned FY2013 through FY2015 conventions, conferences, and trips that were organized, paid for, or attended by FAA staff and their costs to taxpayers.

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